Kara's Keto Plates

Fatty Food Blogging

Category: Review

Birthday Celebrations and Recipe Testing

Birthdays when I was a kid were awesome because in my family you got to choose what we ate for dinner and dessert and you could choose *anything*. You could go out to eat or order in (which we almost never did normally) and choose to eat anything you wanted. Some people ordered in Chinese food or subs or pizza. I had a particular sandwich restaurant I loved (which is now closed, shame) and we would even order appetizers there (very special to me as a child). The youngest forced us to McDonalds for many, many years. But dessert was always, always homemade, because my mom was an amazing baker. One year she made these sculpted piano cakes (recipe from Jacques Torres, I think) for my birthday, complete with keyboards made of white and dark chocolate and raspberry sauce for drizzling. So, birthdays for me have always been wrapped up into this impossible extravagance that somehow becomes possible, magically, for 24 hours.

All that being said, a birthday is just another day. A magical day but a day. Normally, Michael and I would probably just skip the diet for a day and eat whatever we wanted – but we’ll be traveling soon and we’ve made up our minds not to worry about the diet for that week. So, we decided to stay keto for his birthday last  week. Dinner was Italian Sausage with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and this breadsticks recipe. The breadsticks turned out pretty good – we cooked them on foil and they stuck mercilessly, but once they cooled for a few minutes, it was easy to pull off the foil and eat the breadsticks. They were surprisingly breadstick-like. I spiced up Contadina canned sauce (3 g net carb per 1/4 cup serving) with a couple fresh garlic cloves, oregano, crushed red pepper to serve on the side. It was a well-received meal.

For dessert, I made this recipe: low carb salted caramel brownie cupcakes. I made the brownie cupcakes a day ahead of time and despite my worry about the recipe (so many eggs! so little almond flour!) the cupcakes turned out great. I used King Arthur super finely ground almond flour (which I recommend for baking recipes) and the grain of the cupcakes was really good for such dense, chocolate-y little beasts. This recipe will make it into my dessert rotation. The salted caramel became an issue though – which I should have figured out before even making it.

I use Erythritol, plain Erythritol as my sweetener. The author uses Swerve. Swerve is mostly Erythritol but they add oligosaccharides (ie, starch, like Maltodextrin) to make it behave more like sugar.  The problem with Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin is that they do spike blood sugar and insulin. Hence, why I choose to use Erythritol (no blood sugar or insulin spike at all) instead of Swerve or Granular Splenda in recipes.

So where does this affect the salted caramel? Plain old Erythritol will not brown (it crystallizes instead). Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin will brown. I put my butter and my erythritol in a saucepan and heated it and heated it. It kept forming a skin (crystallizing), so I couldn’t even tell if it was boiling. After a while, I figured the solution must be hot as hell. I touched it with a fingertip because I am a glutton for punishment. It burned like a bitch. I put my finger under cold water and then found my infrared thermometer. The solution was 259 degrees Fahrenheit. I figured that was as caramel-y as I was going to get and took it off the heat. I still finished the recipe and used the “salted caramel” in the icing but it was kind of a bust. Cupcake recipe good, icing recipe only really works if you’re willing to use a sweetener with a starch (and possibly spike your blood sugar/insulin levels). The cupcake still looked pretty, though:

Brownie Cupcake

And we had a solid keto birthday dinner and dessert for Michael’s birthday. There was also an enormous Pokémon banner and streamers and fun presents. The cat stole and ate so many ribbons, and then barfed them back up for us. All in all, it was a good experience and proof that we can do a birthday right, even on keto.

Lily’s Chocolate

I fully expected to have to cut back on chocolate when I started eating keto. Dark chocolate is, by and large, pretty darn low carb – maybe a few carbs in a square of 90% chocolate. A worthwhile treat to squeeze into your day if you have the carbohydrates leftover.

Lily's Chocolate Bars

But when I saw Lily’s chocolate bars for sale at one of our local grocery stores (Dierberg’s), I had to pick some up for Michael and me to try. The bars are sweetened with stevia extract, inulin and erythritol, which results in  no spike in blood sugar or corresponding spike in insulin when eaten. That means that we are able to subtract the grams of erythritol from the total carbohydrate count when we calculate net carbohydrate. I’ll give the net calculations for each bar below.

But how does it taste? I personally don’t mind the sweetening profile of stevia and I think it works really well with the earthiness of chocolate, but your mileage may vary (especially if you’ve tried Stevia before and not liked it). The chocolate itself is of high quality: very smooth and with good flavor although 55% cacao content is pretty low to me and if you’re used to darker chocolate, you might miss the fuller, fruity flavors that 85 or 90% cacao content provides.  We’ve tried the original, almond and coconut flavors and I think almond may be Michael’s favorite, but coconut is my favorite (the heart wants what the heart wants and coconut is my addiction).

Net Carb Counts (in 40 grams, or about half the bar):

22 g Total Carbs – 13 g Fiber – 6 g Erythritol = 3 g Net Carbohydrate

20 g Total Carbohydrate – 13 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 2 g Net Carbohydrate

20 g Total Carbohydrate – 12 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 3 g Net Carbohydrate

Crispy Rice:
23 g Total Carbohydrate – 12 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 6 g Net Carbohydrate

Due to the addition of milkfat in each of these bars, none of these products are vegan – although Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Chips *are* vegan and also low in carbohydrate. I haven’t tried them yet because I haven’t been able to find them locally. If you also can’t find these products locally but are interested in trying them, I recommend Netrition.com or you can always check Amazon.

Coconut Bar

Snacking and Hickory Nuts

Before I started on a keto diet, I tended not to snack between meals. The reasoning behind that logic? I was pretty much always hungry and snacking inevitably led to me eating more calories than I otherwise would have when I was trying to run as large a deficit as possible in order to lose weight (calories in vs calories out, right?). Breakfast was coffee with smoked kippers or oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk; lunch was an enormous salad with Tofurky sausage or leftovers from the night before; dinner was most often a vegetarian soup with beans or baked fish accompanied with dark leafy greens plus a serving of basmati rice or roasted potatoes.  The only snacks I allowed myself were one serving of fresh fruit (think plums or nectarines or berries — none of the extra sweet fruit like bananas or grapes or apples) or roasted pumpkin seeds. It was, I think (and my physician agreed), a well-constructed, varied and healthy diet but I was frequently hungry and despite counting calories, limiting refined grains and sugars and engaging in daily physical activity – I was losing no weight.

On keto – I don’t worry about snacking. I don’t worry because although I log everything I eat, I’ve found that I just *don’t* eat more than I need to. I have no problem eating at or below my calorie goal so long as I remain mindful about carbohydrate counts. Some days, I’ll just eat snacks instead of eating a full-fledged lunch.

So what kind of snacks do I eat?

snack plate

Raw red bell pepper; green olives stuffed with lemon peel; dry salami from Volpi (a local company) and Kerrygold Dubliner cheese (think Cheddar crossed with Parmesan – sharp and crumbly and nutty).  The great thing about this snack plate besides the fact that everything tasted awesome? Relatively low protein, high in fat and high in sodium. I find that getting that extra punch of sodium mid-day is so important to keeping the “blahs” at bay. Red bell peppers may also be my single favorite vegetable snack and completely worth the 3-4 grams net carbohydrate in half a pepper: full of vitamins A & C with an extra kick of potassium (again, getting those electrolytes in is so important).

But one of my favorite fatty snacks? Nuts. I eat an ounce of nuts most days: raw pecans or walnuts; roasted macadamia nuts or pistachios. And this weekend, a special package arrived for Michael from Illinois which contained… Hickory Nuts.

Hickory Nuts

Hickory nuts come from the Shag Bark Hickory tree, which is native to the Eastern US and into Canada. By and large, they’re not sold commercially because the tree output varies so much from year to year and the shells are very hard which makes the nuts difficult to process. They taste amazing though – like a pecan but with more of the tannins I associate with walnuts. I quite liked them raw but Michael roasted some this afternoon and they are *really* good. Pecans and walnuts have always been tied for first place in my heart,  but Hickory nuts are the new champion.

The next order of nut business: get my hands on some native pecans, which are supposed to be oilier and taste… wilder.

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